Strengthen brands amid weak economy

Published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Business Features, December 19, 2008

Does your brand have what it takes to face an economic slowdown?

2009 is likely not going to be an easy year for many businesses as changes in the macro-environment foretell. Based on the recent World Economic Outlook 2008 report of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), advanced economies led by the US, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, United Kingdom, Canada is projected to grow to a combined half a percentage point (0.5%) only while the total world’s GDP at a very modest 3.0. Developing Asia including China, India and the ASEAN 5, where the Philippines belong, shall by far contribute to this modest growth at 7.7 and 4.9, respectively. Newly industrialized economies, while markedly hit, is still projected to grow at a modest rate of 3.2%.

The Philippines compared to its neighboring members in Developing Asia has the slowest economic growth rate at 3.5% nonetheless, the projection is still fairly positive.

Overview of World Economic Growth Outlook Projections

GDP                            Year
World Output5.
Advanced economies (including US, Euro –Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, United Kingdom, Canada, other advanced economies and the newly industrialized economies)
Newly industrialized Asian economies (Hongkong SAR, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan5.
Developing Asia (include China, India, ASEAN 5)9.910.08.47.7

Source: World Economic Outlook October 2008 Financial Stress, Dowturns and Recoveries, International Monetary Fund.

While the weak-hearted businessman will take to this news with grim prospects and predictably in an overly pessimistic and downtrodden way, the visionary businesses and brands will view the data with far greater optimism and hope.

Asia faces an economic slowdown, but there is positive growth

Asia, compared to other regions is in a much better financial position and capability to face the backlash of an economic crisis emanating from advanced economies. This, the advanced economies and investors realize that is why there is an expected entry and transfer of more investments into Asia than any other place. Thus, Asia suffers a mere slowdown and not a deep recession that is already happening in advanced economies.

On the other hand, because Asia seems to be the last man standing in an economically crushed time, since the 1930s depression, chances are domestic businesses and brands can expect a far more competitive environment brought about by the entry of foreign and global brands. Here lies the challenge: the preparedness of any domestic brand for this kind of competitive landscape.

Check out your brand’s health before its too late. Do you have what it takes to prepare for a far stiffer competitive environment in 2009? Following are some five ways to help build a resilient brand.

Check your brand’s awareness levels. Your brand may be in existence for the last twenty, thirty or even sixty years. So far, you may be happy with the net income that your present business brings to your table. After all, it allows for a sustained more than a comfortable lifestyle. But if the brand has so far reached thirty years with extremely modest marketing efforts, then maybe its potential is not even full-bloom. Time to find out objectively through market research whether your brand truly enjoys the awareness levels you think it does.

Have a brand story to tell. It makes a big difference if your target market remembers you in a more significant, substantive way. This way, you are assured that you are likely to belong among your potential consumer’s selection criteria when a product, service or even a personality category comes to mind. But stories to tell are difficult to craft thus, rely on an expert brand strategist to help you in your brand building effort. Remember that use of celebrities, creative materials, special events, merchandising, media mix et. al. are mere executions of your story to tell.

Check out your media mix. Let your brand objective direct your action when it comes to choosing your media mix, not the other way around. Are you after creating an expanded awareness level to generate more market or are you happy talking to the same set of customer base and increasing their substantive awareness of your brand through high affinity, low rating broadcast programs or special events? Are you happier having more people know more about your brand in one exposure or content having a handful of people know your brand in one event relying on word of mouth advertising? Herein lies the relevance of time and opportunity. Whoever is first in the mind of your potential market in a relevant way, is also likely to enjoy consumer action. Pray that the next aggressive local, foreign or global brand is not out to take your story.

Have a good channel presence. Availability is key but relying solely in your presence in major channels is not going to make your product or service move. Being available is an important complement in the marketing mix when it comes to building a brand. But believing that your brand will sell simply by flooding the market by being present in all major channels will not. Open your eyes and look around you, you are likely to have the same direct and indirect competitors using the same channel. So what will make your consumers prefer your brand over another who has a story to tell and whose awareness level among consumers is far greater than yours.

Refresh your brand. Find ways to continuously sustain your target market’s interest in your brand. Check out your product and service stock. Be more proactive in learning about the interests of your consumers.

Even when the macro-environment was not exactly robust, many big brands today were born and thrived during economic downturns. The key is to make your brand resilient even during downtimes.